PRESTONSBURG — City attorney Jim Webb says the city council overstepped its authority in not approving his contract, during a special meeting Thursday night.
Webb’s future with the city became unclear, after the council voted 4-2 against renewing his contract.
The vote came up at the end of Thursday’s meeting, and appeared to come as a surprise to Mayor Jerry Fannin. After asking for a voice vote, during which the “no’s” clearly outnumbered the “aye’s,” Fannin sat silently for a moment, seemingly stunned and looking back and forth at council members. He then asked city clerk Sharon Setser to take a roll call on the matter.
Members Harry Adams, B.D. Nunnery, Roy Roberts and Les Stapleton all voted against renewing the contract, while David Gearheart and Freddie Goble voted in favor of it. Tim Cooley and Don Willis were not present for the meeting.
After the vote, Webb asked the council if there were any elements of the contract they wished to negotiate, but he was answered with silence. Fannin then said the matter would have to be discussed further in a future meeting.
“I guess I won’t be there,” Webb said.
After the meeting, Stapleton said he simply wanted to consider other options.
“I’ve seen some things come up that concern me,” Stapleton said. “I just think we need to open it up and let other people bid.”
Adams, however, took that sentiment one step further.
“I think we need another attorney, is my opinion,” Adams said.
Webb appeared to take the vote in stride, but said after the meeting that any desire by the council to pick a new attorney might not possible. He said the way the ordinance governing the selection of a city attorney is written, the mayor has the power to choose who the attorney is, while the council only approves the contract.
After further reviewing city and state law on the subject, Webb said on Friday that the council has no authority to approve or reject his contract.
Webb said the city’s ordinance not only gives the mayor the authority to pick the city attorney, but also the power to execute a personal service contract. He said the council’s only power is to approve the compensation, which he says they did when they passed the budget.
According to Prestonsburg ordinance 31.50 (c), “Appointment to the position of city attorney shall be filled by the mayor. The mayor is authorized to execute an annual personal service contract with the person so appointed. The city attorney shall be compensated in the amount approved by council and set forth in the personal service contract.”